30 Jan 2013
Updated22 Oct2019

Fun, exciting games & activities to teach vocab using flashcards

ESL Kids FlashcardsMaking your lesson fun and exciting gives your students a chance to enjoy themselves as they learn – and they will always look forward to their next lesson!  These activities focus on adding fun and excitement to using flashcards to teach and review vocabulary.  Some of them take a bit of time to set up and explain, but it is well worth it and once your students have learned the activity you can play it time and time again.

In order of excitement (10 is the most exciting):

  1. Concentration: You need 2 sets of flashcards for this game.  Place both sets face down on the floor.  Students take turns in turning over 2 cards (saying the cards aloud).  If the cards match then the student keeps the cards.  If the cards are different the cards are turned back over again in their original places.  The student with the most pairs at the end of the game is the winner.
  2. Charades: Have a student come to the front of the class and show a flashcard or whisper a word to that student.  The student then acts out that word to the rest of the class and the first student to guess what it is can be the next player.  This works very well with action verbs.  Variation: divide the class up into teams – the first student to guess wins a point for his/her team.
  3. Pictionary: Good for reviewing vocab.  Pick a student and show him/her a flashcard picture or whisper a word into his/her ear.  The student draws the picture on the board and the first student in the class to guess the picture gets to draw the next picture.  This can also be played in teams with a point system.
  4. Spin the Bottle: Sit your students in a circle with a bottle in the middle.  The teacher spins the bottle.  When it stops spinning the student it is pointing to is shown a flashcard and asked to say what it is.  If the answer is correct then that student can spin the bottle.  This is a good vocab review activity.
  5. Basketball: Students take a shot at the trash can/box/etc.  First show a flashcard to Student 1.  If s/he answers correctly then s/he can have a shot at the basket.  If the student gets the ball in the basket then s/he wins 2 points.  If the student hits the basket without going inside then s/he wins 1 point.  The person who gets the most points is the winner.  This can also be played in teams.
  6. Fish: Before this game you need to have the students in pairs draw and cut out a picture of a fish for each pair.  While they are doing that put 2 parallel lines of tape on the floor a few meters apart.  Have students play in pairs – each student behind a different line, facing each other with the fish in the middle.  The teacher shows Student 1 a flashcard and asks what it is.  If the student answers it correctly s/he can blow once to propel the fish forward.  Next, the teacher asks Student 2 who can blow the fish back towards S2.  The student who blows the fish over their opponents line is the winner.
  7. Rope Jump: you need a rope for this one!  Have your students stand behind each other in a line.  Hold a rope (have a student hold the other end) at a height that the students should be able to jump over in front of the line of students (if your students are just little ones you can just lay the rope on the ground for them to jump over).  On the other side of the rope spread out some flashcards and a box.  Call out the name of one of the flashcards/objects to the first student.  S/he has to jump over the rope, pick up the correct flashcard and put it in the box.  For other rounds you can hold the rope down low, so students have to crawl/roll under.
  8. Over-under:  Line up your student in two teams. Give the two students at the front each a flash card. When you say go, the first in line says the word and passes the f/c over their head, the next student says the word and passes the card under between their legs, the student kid over, then under, etc. The last student in the line races to the front to hand the f/c to the teacher and says the word. The first team to do so gets a point.
  9. Backs to the Board Game: This one is good for higher level kids.  Make two teams and stand one student from each team in front of the board, facing away from it.  Place a flashcard picture on the board (e.g. “hamburger”) and the students have to explain that word to their team member (e.g. you can buy it in McDonalds, it’s got cheese and ketchup in it).  The first student out of the two standing in front of the board to guess the word wins a point for his/her team.
  10. Ostrich Game: This game is really good fun.  You need some clothes pegs.  Pair up students and peg a card onto each student’s back.  Both students face each other with hands behind backs waiting for the teacher to shout “Go!”.  At this point they must try to discover his/her partner’s hidden flashcard without letting their partner see theirs.  When the student finally sees his/her partner’s card s/he has to shout it out to become the winner.  The students look like ostriches when playing this game.

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